Any observer of the constant Saudi keenness on relations of good neighborliness across the various stages of its history can discern the guidance of King Salman bin Abdulaziz regarding the Saudi vision of relations with Iran from the statements of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his interview with the brilliant presenter Abdullah al-Mudaifer on April 27.
Any close observer can clearly see the great impact of the developments of the last two decades. This is evident in the various political, economic, and demographic changes that took place in several regions. Researchers in several institutions suggest that the most influential decision-makers around the world had not predicted these changes. A few researchers base this analysis on the fact that some politicians of global recognition boldly admitted to their initial surprise, followed by their confusion, in how to deal with these new shocking realities. This admission is a step in the right direction, even if it resulted in some downturns in recapturing the reins and setting new policies that are commensurate with the new reality.
In the context of this realistic approach to the aforementioned developments, Iranian decision-makers of all affiliations and views would benefit from dealing with Mohammed bin Salman’s statements with a mentality that takes into consideration two key factors. First, they must accept that reality is ever-changing because inertia contradicts the laws of life. Second, they need to realize that Riyadh’s extended hand does not stem from weakness toward Iran, but rather, from an effort to serve the interests of people in both countries.
In his discussion of the future of relations with Iran, the crown prince tackled the subject of entering into dialogue with the Iranian neighbor in a language that paves the way for a new kind of interaction based on the principles of good neighborliness recognized by every country on earth. This proposal, which is rooted in a clear sense of self-confidence and the belief in the value of mutual respect between states, serves the people of both countries, and it is much better than any selfish aspirations, internal or external, that might prevent such welfare for future generations in both countries.
Objectively, the reported Iranian reactions welcoming Mohammed bin Salman’s statements should be recognized. However, a mere verbal welcoming would not suffice, especially given the multitude of political allegiances within government circles in Tehran. The latest -- but probably not the last -- example in this regard is the reactions in Iran to the crisis of the leaked audiotape of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in which he stated his position on the interventions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran’s policies in general, and the role of Qassem Soleimani in particular. The political schism is made clearer by the ensuing fury of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with Zarif.
All this shows that the state of Iran is truly put to the test, and not only in terms of taking a serious, realistic action in response to the crown prince’s interview. More importantly, the test targets Tehran’s readiness for a truthful, unambiguous transition from its revolutionary governance methodology to actually operate as a proper, logical state, with all that this entails in terms of commitment to international conventions and to working with neighboring countries and the world as a whole. We shall wait with hope and see.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.